There’s a knock at your door; you open it to find the person standing before you was none other than someone you had witnessed die. You had prepared them for their wake, watched them be lowered into the ground in their coffin, and buried. What would you do?
Let me take you back to the early 1700’s and we’ll find out how one man reacted to this very same incident.
Let’s go way back to Lurgan, Northern Ireland in the early 1700’s.
According to local historian, Jim Conway, Ireland was struck by famine in the early 1700’s, prior to the Irish Famine (1740-1741, killing between 300,000 to 480,000 people [prior to the Great Famine, 1845-1852 killing 1 million people]).
In 1705, Margorie McCall, a woman living in Church Place, Lurgan, suddenly caught a fever. As quickly as the fever came on, she passed away. The people of Lurgan wanted to bury her hastily in fear that on top of their struggles, there was a chance that whatever Margorie had succumbed to was contagious and they wanted to stop it from spreading to anyone else.
A wake was promptly arranged and held. While preparing her for the wake, her husband John tried to remove her expensive wedding ring from her finger, to try to deter grave robbers from desecrating and digging up her grave- but it wouldn’t come off.
As night came and people began to go home from the wake, John sat beside his wife all night watching over her, making sure no one would try to take her wedding ring.
The next day, Margorie was buried and laid to rest in the Shankill Cemetery in Lurgan. John couldn’t sit at her grave forever to protect it from grave robbers, so he went home to mourn the loss of his wife with their children.
Later that evening there was a knock at the McCall door. John, mourning the death of his wife with their children got up and said “If I hadn’t buried your mother, I would swear that was her knock.” Getting up, he opened the door and saw the last face he ever expected; his dead wife Margorie. Except she wasn’t dead- she was alive and well, up and walking around.
See, shortly after he left the cemetery -before the soil had even settled- grave robbers descended upon her grave, digging up her body to retrieve the rumoured expensive ring. But when the robbers tried to pull the ring off her finger rigor had set in, and they couldn’t pry her finger straight to get the ring off. Impatient, one of the robbers decided he would just cut her finger off to get the ring. He pulled out his knife and got to work on the gruelling task, but as soon as the knife met her skin and drew blood, Margorie bolted in an upright position, screaming bloody murder! Terrified, the robbers ran off screaming.
Margorie, confused, pulled herself up from her grave, dusted herself off, and began the 10 minute walk from the cemetery to her home to find her husband. Someone had some explaining to do.
Margorie got home and knocked on the door.
That’s when John opened the door to see the last person he would have expected- the wife he had just buried.
The poor man, his heart gave out from the shock and he died right there in the doorway. John was buried in the grave that Margorie had just left.
Apparently Margorie went on to live a long life, and eventually died of old age and buried in the plot with her husband John. There was a headstone added to Johns that says “Margorie McCall, Lived Once, Buried Twice”.
Historian Jim Conway says that the existing headstone is not the original one, and that Margorie’s original headstone had both of her death dates on it. What a story that would be to tell your grandchildren: Did you know your Nana was buried alive? And then accidentally killed my husband when I got home after being dug out of my grave by grave robbers? Whoopsies!
One moral I get from this story is make sure that you get an expensive wedding ring worth digging your body up over- because you never know. You might just be in a coma and not know it! Grave robbers could save your life. Maybe not your husbands though…
Jim Conway says that the Shankill Cemetery has no official records of Margorie McCall being buried, coming back to life and being reburied years later with her actual death of natural causes. But there are Parish records in the Public Records Office recording the deaths of nine Margorie McCall’s in Lurgan, three of which were married to John McCall’s. There are no records stating that any of the Margorie’s or John’s died in 1705, but Jim Conway says that in the time of famine, record keeping sort of fell to the wayside.
Thank you for reading! I hope you enjoyed this little piece of history. Even if it can’t be proven as true, it’s still an amazing story of the resilience of Irish women.